Sitting in the Detroit Airport carries a strange mix of familiarity and nervous anticipation. Due to my decision to attend college in Florida, flying out of this airport is a frequent occurrence and I’ve gotten to know the layout very well. I know exactly where to find the cheapest cup of coffee, and the bathroom with the shortest lines. I also know the rules of luggage when flying very well; I know you have to take your laptop out of your backpack, the toiletry case out of your carry-on and all shoes and belts come off. Knowing these things makes my trips through the body scanner less stressful while simultaneously making me more easily irritated by slower passengers in the front of the line. It’s fair to say that the Detroit Airport fits well into my comfort zone. However, today, nerves bubble inside my stomach and make my heart work a little harder in my chest. This time, I’m not flying into the usual palm trees and sunshine; this time, I will be taking my first step in a long marathon of adventure.



Chicago Airport is much, much different than Detroit. I don’t believe I have ever been here so there is definitely an air of novelty swishing around my head I’m sure. First of all, after getting off my flight from Detroit at gate A4 or something similar, I was told to get to gate K19!


That’s about as far as you can walk from one end of the airport to the other without having to leave that terminal. Wow, I must have walked a couple miles or something going from one gate to another. (That’s ok, burning all those calories for the Spanish bread and wine;)) I can see my gate from here although I still have a few hours before we even begin boarding the flight. I called a few loved ones, said my last few goodbyes and deactivated my phone for the summer. That was perhaps one of the most freeing and terrifying decisions of my life. I realize I am full of conflicting emotions today.

Chicago is busy. That’s one of the best adjectives to describe O’Hare International. Thousands of people running every which way, bumping into their fellow passengers and not apologizing. It’s amusing to watch the difference in cadence between the passengers and the obvious flight staff. A pilot saunters up to the Starbucks counter, ordering in a lazy drawl and perhaps striking up conversation with the baristas he knows from past encounters. He’s the picture of ease, leaning on the counter and smiling while always maintaining a firm grip on his standard, perfectly sized luggage, almost as if his hand is subconsciously glued to the handle. Passengers on the other hand, are blatantly more energized. Even those who are clearly wiped from their presumptively long day of travelling are acutely aware of their surroundings; their eyes are darting to every movement in their peripherals and there’s always a visible shift with every intercom announcement. Passengers also have two very different types of reactions when it comes to their luggage. There’s either a white knuckled grip on the handle of the little rollies, or a constant lapse in memory  as if they forget about the bag with all their belongings. I don’t know how many times within the last hour a passenger has forgotten their luggage right at the counter where they ordered their coffee, only to return a moment later with a little apologetic laugh and shoulder shrug. People watching is so fascinating, even if I am only rambling to take up more time in this seemingly endless layover.

Switching gears here… Among the countless miracles that added up to make this trip happen was the generosity of my host father in the purchasing of my airfare to and from Spain. He provided two checked bags etc. However, something that I didn’t know until today is my flight to Spain from Chicago (ie the one that I’m about to board), is in First Class! WOW! God is so good. This experience will certainly be a novelty as I have always opted for the cheapest possible tickets on the cheapest possible airlines. I will definitely write on my experience when I land in Madrid. At that point, I will only have one leg left of my journey with a one hour flight to Vigo from the country’s capital.



First class is one of the most amazing experiences of my life and that’s all I’m going to say about that.


However, this last plane ride was a sudden switch from a comfy English mindset to a rapid, spitfire Spanish one. I felt like my brain was constantly under attack from foreign words and only about a half hour into the flight, I began thinking in Spanish again. This is both a good and bad thing. For one, it’s been very difficult to get into a Spanish speaking mindset when surrounded by family who only uses Spanish words when quoting a movie. This sudden thrust into the language didn’t give me much of a choice in the matter which is good in preparation for the meeting of my host family. However, something all duo-lingual people surely understand is the almost constant interpersonal mental dialogue. It’s never a simple “como estas?”. That question is followed by the inner Erin translating it to English, then back to Spanish; then I continue to run through the list of possible answers in my head, translating each individually until I reach the one I want. This is all done so subconsciously when it is only in one language but when speaking two different ones simultaneously, every syllable is a single beat in a long percussion solo.

I am currently two hours into my five hour layover and like the last two airports, I am really enjoying people watching. This airport is very open, not just hallways with shops on the side but it has more of a warehouse feel with lots of floor space and windows all over the place. The flying buttresses on the outside and inside of the building shift colors to fulfill on those on the rainbow spectrum from one end of the airport to the other.


As for the people, the workers here are a lot meaner but the travelers are all very friendly. I have already met a young doctor who is flying into Vigo as well. His name is Alejandro and he comes from a lecture he gave in Columbia about his budding practice in “Estetica” which translates roughly to Liposuctions and all other Plastic Surgery. He asked if I was interested and I’m not entirely sure if that’s something I should be offended by. However, he also asked if I would be interested in helping to translate the books he’s working on so maybe he’s just overly friendly; I wish I could help him with that but I don’t think I would even know the medical terms in English let alone be able to recognize them in Spanish. Alejandro is of great help right now because I have only really been conversing with myself in Spanish and he has no problem correcting my misuse of the language. Our conversations are a strange mix of English and Spanish but it’s been very helpful. That being said, in case anyone still believes what their high school Spanish teach told them, there is about 19872342 million ways to ask what time it is and apparently it’s very specific to what you’re doing while you ask it. So, pretty much get ready to get laughed at if you ask anything in relation to time.

Also, apparently, you need a converter to plug anything in for electricity. Just a little tip in case anyone is trying to visit Spain. The fact that I didn’t know this bothers me more than it should I think; I wonder why I didn’t notice this the last time I was here but thinking back to that time, I was only 13 or 14 and I don’t think I had a phone at that point. I know for sure I didn’t bring a computer. So anyway, I just made my first purchase in Spain to buy a converter. Milestones.

Published by Erin Koehler